on Jan 7th, 2013 in Labor | 5 comments
 
U.S. Postal Service employees are covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), which provides workers’ compensation benefits to civilian federal employees who sustain work-related injuries or an occupational disease. The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) administers workers’ compensation and provides direct compensation to providers, claimants, and beneficiaries. The Postal Service later reimburses OWCP in what is known as “charge-back billings.” The Postal Service is the largest FECA participant in the federal government. It paid $1.2 billion in workers’ compensation claims and $67 million in administrative fees in charge-back year 2011. In addition, its estimated total liability for future workers’ compensation costs is about $17.5 billion. The Postmaster General noted in testimony last year that when the Postal Service revalues its liability to reflect current interest rates, it creates significant non-cash fluctuations in its bottom line. For this reason and others, the Postal Service has pushed for comprehensive FECA reform legislation. Providing gainful employment within medically defined work restrictions is in the best interest of both employees and the Postal Service. The Postal Service uses its limited duty program to assign available work for those employees who are temporarily unable to perform their regular functions. Limited duty employees retain the discipline of going to work every day and recuperation may also be accelerated if they are as active as possible. Early return to the regular job is the ultimate objective of the limited duty program. However, with diminishing mail volumes and limited resources for proactive case management, the Postal Service faces significant challenges in providing adequate work. The Health and Resource Management (HRM) staff and other officials play an important role in administering the injury compensation program and reducing related costs by returning injured employees to work as soon as possible and, in part, pursuing third-party liability. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) intends to assess whether the Postal Service’s HRM staff, supervisors, and other officials have all the necessary resources to successfully return employees back to work. And if not, what tools do they need to facilitate the return to work process. What practices are working or should be changed to more effectively administer the Postal Service’s injury compensation program? Share your comments in our blog section and follow the link to take one of the three surveys on this topic, depending on your employment position.

5 Comments


Yeah well maybe if we could get a claim number so we could start the therapy Dr Required.

HRM staffing is inadequate in the Lakeland District and I suspect it's similar in other Districts. With inadaquate staffing and heavy workload I do not have much time for "Claims Management". We simply process paperwork, the majority of which is new (CA1/CA2) claims and Claims for Compensation (CA7s). If staffing was realistic, I would actually have time to communicate with management, providers, and the OIG regarding return to work initiatives and issues. Currently the Lakeland District has 16,000 employees and we have 4 HRM Specialists. I alone attempt to support and manage the Injury Compensation Program for approximately 280 offices. In addition to the 4 HRM Specialists there are 3 detailed EAS employees who perform HRM duties such as 3P recovery and District (assesment team) work searches. These 3 detailed employees are "taken out of hide" from outside of the District HR Staff. If Postal HQ truly wants to save money, put the money up front with staffing. Chargeback to OWCP is enormous compared to what additional staff would cost. When I have time, I save the USPS a lot of money. An in-depth/uniform assesment of HRM staffing needs to be completed. The FECA is not going away and the USPS workforce is getting older. Chargeback will continue to rise despite HQ efforts if HRM Staffing is not fixed to reflect reality.

Thank you Scott for your feedback, we are considering staffing in our current audit. Could you provide any examples of how increased staffing would help you to more effectively focus on returning employees to work?

Scott's comments are right on. Our collective staffing is so limited we barely have time to process the paperwork, much less manage cases. The Nurse Case Manger program was eliminated in the Pacific Area a couple of years ago. That pogram was loved by the injured workers and a tremendous help to the HRM staff.
OWCP is pre-disposed to accept claims. They have no incentive to try to save the USPS any money. FECA was passed in 1914 and is extremely outdtade. Why would anyone want to come back to work if they can stay home and be paid 75% of their salary tax free. OWCP is not suppose to be a retirement system, but how many PR cases have been on compensation for decades? Change the law so injured workers would have to retire when they would have if they had never been hurt. The scheduled award part of the FECA needs to have more checks and balances. The same physician that has been treating the injured worker does the S/A evaluation. Have an independent doctor perform the permanent partial impairment rating.

Thank you Klinton for your feedback. I see you mentioned the Nurse Case Manager program being eliminated a few years back. Can you provide any examples of how the nurse’s assistance helped you with effective case management? Additionally, your concerns about the FECA law was addressed in a previous audit published by OIG in September 30, 2011 “Postal Service Workers’ Compensation Program”. This audit discussed changes to the FECA law to give the Postal Service some flexibility within their workers’ compensation program.

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